Spectrum Health looks to close next year on a blockbuster merger with Southfield-based Beaumont Health. The two health systems announced the merger in June and hoped to close on the new BHSH System in the fall. Closing the deal has been delayed as trade regulators work through a backlog of merger proposals. Plans call for Spectrum Health President and CEO Tina Freese Decker to lead the new health system. Meanwhile, Spectrum Health is pursuing the merger as it continues to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic and rising patient volumes and hospitalizations that are further stressing staff. Freese Decker recently provided an update on the merger process as well as her hopes and concerns heading into 2022.
Where does the Beaumont Health deal sit right now?
We are waiting for the state and federal regulatory agencies to complete their reviews and we are excited to bring together the incredible talent that currently exists at Spectrum Health and Beaumont Health. One of the things I want to be is a magnet for talent that allows us to drive toward addressing the challenges and opportunities that we see today. All of us remain very optimistic and committed to putting Michigan on the map and transforming health to be more accessible, affordable, equitable and exceptional.
What are the biggest questions about the deal that you’ve gotten from the business community in West Michigan?
I really haven’t had a whole lot of questions since the summer. The biggest question, and the most relevant question, is how does this impact West Michigan and local health care in West Michigan. Our commitment still stands. We’re committed to the local communities. We’re committed to high-quality health care, affordable health care, accessible and equitable (care). That’s our effort. We want to make sure that wherever we are, we still can deliver on our mission to local communities.
As you’ve gone through the process of getting this deal done with Beaumont, have you found anything that perhaps challenged your initial thinking or has forced you to pivot?
When you look at what we’ve been through in health care over the past two years, everybody does have a plan, but you have to be adaptable enough to pivot from it. So, we’ve been doing a lot of different scenarios, whether it’s related to COVID-19 or related to this integration. A lot of times, you don’t have it exactly right, but we have plans for what could come forward. There’s no major surprises as we’ve gone through this. There have been things like, ‘Oh, well, we should make sure we do this as we go forward.’ Our scenario planning has been very good for preparing us for the twists and turns.
What worries you and what makes you hopeful going into the new year?
It’s an understatement to say that this pandemic has been really hard, and it is still going on, which is very, very challenging. What I see with hope is that there is so much innovation, creativity and compassion by thousands and thousands of people who are helping us in our community. But what gives me concern is that our people are exhausted, and they’re wiped out.
I’m most concerned about how our team can continue to give the energy that they need to give, but my hope is that we can continue to work with our teams, help our teams, refocus and retool our processes, provide that innovation and that inspiration to bring more trust, and more compassion, more humanity in our field and be able to move forward. It’s really, really important that we engage with our teams. Everyday when I walk around I see compassion, curiosity, courage and collaboration, and that gives me hope for a brighter tomorrow.
What would surprise you in 2022?
I would have thought that we wouldn’t be in this spot right now with COVID if you asked me this question last year. It’s just so sad and heartbreaking that we’re in this position. It’s hard to say because we’ve been through so much in the past few years that nothing really surprises us. Maybe it’s a surprise that we would go back to something normal. I really think we need to focus on disrupting the status quo and moving us forward to really advance and take hold of this innovation that we’ve been driving right now. So, I’d like to see us much farther along than where we are today so that we can continue to serve our communities.